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‘Blood Moon’ eclipse brings ‘syzygy’ to earth, moon, sun

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In this illustration from NASA, the sun, earth and moon are in perfect alignment during what appears as a "blood moon."

In this illustration from NASA, the sun, earth and moon are in perfect alignment during what appears as a “blood moon.”

If a total eclipse of the moon is on your bucket list, here’s your chance if the weather cooperates, and it should be crystal clear early Wednesday morning.

Very early Wednesday morning, the second of four lunar eclipses of 2014 will be visible from all of North America.

What’s more, it will be the second “Blood Moon” in 2014, as the reflected light off the lunar surface first passes through Earth’s atmosphere, where the sun’s rays are scattered, stripping out the other colors in the spectrum.

In the Ozarks, you should see the total eclipse high in a dark morning sky well before sunrise, even if there is an abundance of ambient light where you live.

You may even be able to see the total eclipse of the moon and the rising sun simultaneously. The effect is called a ‘selenelion,’ a phenomenon that celestial geometry says cannot happen. During a lunar eclipse, the sun and moon are exactly 180 degrees apart in the sky. In a perfect alignment like this (called a “syzygy,” as Ozarks Living readers learned from the October 2013 Wild Things column), such an observation would seem to be impossible.

And yet, thanks to Earth’s light-bending atmosphere, the images of both the sun and moon are lifted above the horizon by atmospheric refraction, allowing us to see the sun for several extra minutes before it actually has risen and the moon for several extra minutes after it has actually set. In a word, Syzygy, a straight-line alignment between three gravitational bodies, often the earth, moon and sun. From the ancient Greek, suzugos, which means, “yoked together.”

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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